Verastem lands $32m in financing

By Kaivan Mangouri
Globe Correspondent / July 15, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

Cambridge pharmaceutical firm Verastem Inc., formed last year to develop drugs that target cancer stem cells, has completed a $32 million round of financing as it prepares for clinical trials expected to begin in 2012.

Among the company’s investors are Advanced Technology Ventures, Astellas Venture Management, Longwood Founders Fund, Bessemer Venture Partners, Cardinal Partners, and MPM Capital.

Verastem’s research focuses on cancer stem cells, which tend to resist current cancer drugs and trigger recurrent tumor growth, said chief operating officer Robert Forrester.

“Like a phoenix, these cells rise from the ashes of the tumor . . . they spread,’’ Forrester said. “We are targeting the elimination of these cancer stem cells, and combined with existing cancer drugs, we’ll get a durable response.’’

Lab research conducted by three of the company’s seven cofounders - Robert Weinberg, Eric Lander, and Piyush Gupta - laid the groundwork for what became Verastem.

“You’ve got to have world-class science targeting a huge, unmet medical need, but have to have the people who can convert the science into products,’’ Forrester said.

Last month, Henri Termeer, former chief executive of Genzyme Corp. in Cambridge, joined the Verastem board.

Venture capitalists invested more than $1.1 billion in Massachusetts companies in the second quarter of this year, up from $719 million in the previous quarter, according to CB Insights, a New York research firm. The Verastem deal tied the online marketing firm HubSpot Inc. for 10th place among venture investments in Massachusetts companies so far this year; HubSpot raised $32 million in March.

Among other recent deals: Boston-based online retailer CSN Stores Inc. raised $165 million in June from Battery Ventures, Great Hill Partners, HarbourVest Partners, and Spark Capital; also in June, biotech Tesaro Inc. in Waltham raised $101 million in a deal led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; and Cambridge biotech Radius Health Inc. raised $91 million from two groups of investors in May.

K aivan Mangouri can be reached at